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Aug 19th, 2013
 
Micro-printing process enables flexible, energy-efficient, biocompatible MEMS
 
The miniaturization of electronics continues to revolutionize the medical industry with tiny, swallowable devices and minuscule, implanted sensors.
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Researchers at Tel Aviv University (TAU) have kept the ball rolling with the development of a new micro-printing process that allows the production of flexible and energy-efficient microelectromechanical (MEMS) devices that can be safely used in the human body.

Generally, MEMS come in two forms; sensors and actuators. The sensors convert movement or chemical signals into electrical signals, which can then be interpreted within the system, while the MEMS actuators work like any other actuator and convert a signal into mechanical movement. The membranes that are typically used to measure or produce the necessary movement are usually produced in a manufacturing process similar to that used in the semiconductor industry with silicon used as a base material for micro- and nano-sized components.

The new process developed by the TAU team replaces the silicon with a non-toxic organic polymer that results in rubbery, paper-thin membranes that are more biocompatible than silicon-based MEMS. They are also more flexible, which TAU claims could enable more sensitive MEMS sensors and more energy-efficient MEMS actuators that could be safely implanted in the human body, while also being more comfortable. The researchers say the new printing technology also provides the potential for quick, low-cost production of MEMS devices.

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